Saturday, March 05, 2005

The tactics have changed

But the policy hasn't shifted. From this morning's NY Times:

One proposal in circulation would allow individuals to invest in personal retirement accounts on top of their current payroll taxes, as an "add-on," rather than diverting payments from the existing system. Mr. Bush has been cool to the "add-on," approach, but he used that very phrase on Friday to describe his vision for the plan. Under his proposal, Mr. Bush said, income from a private account "goes to supplement the Social Security check that you're going to get from the federal government."

"See, personal accounts is an add-on to that which the government is going to pay you," he said. "It doesn't replace the Social Security system."

What he fails to mention there, is that for this type of add-on, he's going to add more than $5 trillion in new debt in the next 25 years and he's still going to cut you Social Security check by 50% or more. If that's an "add-on" it really sucks.

He's going to try and usurp our language because it has been more effective than his switching from "private accounts" to "personal accounts" to "personal investment accounts." He's going to talk about this being an "add-on account" to what you are already "guaranteed" from the government. But these account will be funded by taking money out of Social Security thus making it less sustainable, and the guarantee he's willing to give you is that the government check will be significantly less than what you are promised now.

Don't be fooled he hasn't been beaten yet. And he's going to keep trying until he realizes that he's definitely on the wrong side. As the Times story puts it, "A central question for Mr. Bush is whether he will consider a compromise with Democrats so he can claim victory on the biggest agenda item of his second term."

I'm staking my assertion on how easily he would take the political path of least resistance and accept some small measure of victory instead of total, utter failure on his first big initiative after re-election.

We don't have to step back on the add-on accounts, yet. By taking our language he has made it easier for us to frame the debate. Simply saying that "It's not much of an 'add-on account' if we're borrowing $5 trillion dollars and taking money out of Social Security" will be fine for right now. And this step he's taken will also make it easier to compromise with add-on accounts later. If we're already both using the phrase, it will be less-stressful to do it.

He may even be able to claim he got personal accounts for everybody. That's OK, because we will have won the bigger victory which is saving Social Security from being phased out.


Post a Comment

<< Home